The government announced authorization of 851 new homes in the settlements
despite an anticipated wave of international condemnations because it believes
that – as in previous instances – the storm will pass, officials said on
The officials spoke even as the US, France and UN already
slammed the decision to build the new housing units.
The decision was
made on Wednesday shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blocked
Knesset legislation that would have saved unauthorized settler homes from
demolition – paving the way for the evacuation of five buildings built on
private Palestinian land in the Ulpana outpost, on the outskirts of Beit
“We had no illusions that the international community was going to
embrace the move,” one official said. He pointed out, however, that with the
exception of Kiryat Arba, all the new housing units were to be built in
settlements that Israel considered as large settlement blocs that would remain
part of Israel under any agreement.
He also said the units would be built
within the confines of existing settlements, and did not represent the
construction of new communities.
Beit El, which like Kiryat Arba is
outside the West Bank security barrier, has increasingly been considered by the
government as part of a large settlement bloc, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak
having said a number of times in recent months it will stay part of
The official said that similar international outrage was expected
to what occurred last November, when Israel announced that it would build 327
homes in Ma’aleh Adumim and Efrat, and 1,650 in the Jewish neighborhoods of east
Jerusalem, in response to the Palestinians’ success in joining the UN
Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
evening, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) said his office
would market 300 units in Beit El, 144 in Geva Binyamin (Adam), 117 in Ariel, 114 in Efrat, 92 in
Ma’aleh Adumim and 84 in Kiryat Arba.
The condemnations were not long in
“Continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank
undermines peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations
including the 2003 road map,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on
“The US position on Israeli settlements is clear,” he
said. “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.
We also oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero urged Netanyahu to “avoid provocation
and renew dialogue.” He called on the prime minister to “abstain from
implementing these plans. We recall that colonization in all its forms is
illegal under international law, undermines the two-state solution at ground
level, and is an obstacle to peace.”
And UN Middle East envoy Robert
Serry issued a statement saying that “the International Community’s view [is]
that all settlement construction – whether on private Palestinian land or
elsewhere in occupied Palestinian territory – is contrary to international
He termed the announcement of the new units, “including adding 300
units in Beit El, deep inside the West Bank,” as “deeply
Serry said that “if the parties do not grasp the current
opportunity, they should realize the implication is not merely slowing progress
toward a two-state solution.
Instead, we could be moving down the path
toward a one-state reality, which would also move us further away from regional
peace in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative.”
official refused to speculate on whether such an announcement of more housing
units would have been made had the Palestinian Authority been willing to enter
into negotiations with Israel. The PA has said it will not negotiate unless all
settlement construction – including in east Jerusalem – stops.
government seemed to feel that the condemnations would pass, one diplomatic
official warned that Israel ignored the world on this matter at its
“You can’t say that the condemnations mean nothing,” the official
said. “They have all kinds of effect on other things, and when we go to
countries later and ask for certain things, be it votes at the UN or other
issues, it takes a toll.”
The official said that constant headlines such
as “UN condemns Israel over settlements” had an accumulative effect, and was one
of the reasons why Israel’s position in public opinion polls in many countries
around the world was hurting.
Planning is under way to relocate the five
Ulpana structures to an authorized section of the Beit El settlement, at a cost
of NIS 12 million to NIS 14m. The families will be given modular homes to live
in until the structures have been relocated, officials said.
are ongoing between the Prime Minister’s Office and Ulpana residents, but no
agreement has been reached.
At present, Ulpana residents plan to resist
the relocation of their homes. Activists have set up tents by the homes to
protest the pending demolitions.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this